Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 8, 2003
Newfoundland bishop named 'person of historical significance'
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The Irish-born Catholic bishop whose crowning achievement was building the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist overlooking the harbour of St. John's, Nfld., has been designated by the federal government as a person of national historical significance.
Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, born in 1792, was one of 11 new designations announced Sept. 2 by Heritage Minister Sheila Copps.
The designations include places, people and one event - the Canadian Home and Parent Federation, whose roots go back to the organization's establishment in 1895 in Baddeck, N.S.
Fleming was invited to St. John's in 1823 and was named Vicar Apostolic of Newfoundland seven years later.
He worked to enhance the distinctiveness and influence of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland, a Heritage Canada backgrounder stated. "He opposed ecumenism within the clergy and refused to allow any compromise by Roman Catholics in the practice of their faith."
"He recruited young and energetic priests from Ireland who had been raised in an era of increasing Catholic rights. He improved the administration of his vicariate and he was successful in having it raised to the status of a diocese in 1847, with him as the first bishop."
Fleming also centralized control of Church affairs in the hands of the clergy, systematically removing responsibilities from the laity.
By the time of his death in 1850, Fleming had profoundly influenced Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland, said the backgrounder. "He radically restructured the personnel, administration and visibility of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland from a small colonial mission to a diocese. "
He also laid the foundations of a Catholic education system before a fully sectarian education system was enshrined in law, it stated. Five designations announced by Copps commemorate places of national historic significance, another five involve people, and one commemorates the event.
"These designations reflect Parks Canada's ongoing commitment to build the System of National Historic Sites of Canada and to fulfill its mandate to preserve and maintain the commemorative integrity of our protected heritage areas," said Copps.
"From the Confederation Centre of the Arts, in Charlottetown, which is the first memorial erected to honour the Fathers of Confederation, to Cape Breton's Chapel Island, a living Mi'kmaq spiritual site, these national historic sites symbolize the great and diverse heritage shared by all Canadians."